Wind Farms the Size of Alaska

Ben Gibson

October 20, 2017

Could wind farms begin to satisfy the global demand for electricity? Researchers believe that wind farms twice the size of Alaska may be able to.

Customary fuel sources used today are limited and dirty. Oil is depleting as we scramble to extract as much as possible. Coal is among the dirtiest fuel sources and one of the leading contributors of carbon emissions in the world today. Fracking, the process used for extracting natural gas,  is controversial and even banned in certain parts of the world such as New York State citing it as a risk to public health.

The World’s intense hunger for fuel must be sated one way or another, and many scientists are scrambling to further our understanding of cleaner sources of energy. Harnessing natural energies like gusts of wind, rays of sun, and torrents of water would be ideal because of their renewability.

NBC News says that wind speeds over the open oceans average 70% higher than those over land. Using this information many have come to the conclusion that a floating wind farm would be the most effective implementation of the technology.

The problem with keeping wind turbines too close together lies in when wind goes through a turbine, it slows dramatically, hampering the next turbine’s ability to harness the power. Carnegie scientists, Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira, speculate that having the farms in water would reduce the drag that packed wind farms suffer.

The jet streams of air would be pulled down close to the water by storms, making open oceans ideal. The Scientists have calculated that a wind farm in the middle of the North Atlantic would generate at least 2 times as much energy as one in Kansas, one of the windiest states in the U.S..

NBC News says that a wind farm nearly twice the size of Alaska might be able to produce the global demand for electricity: 18 million gigawatts. Building a floating wind farm that size, however, poses some challenges.

The extreme weather that would make the mid Atlantic so ideal for wind turbines could be one of the most compelling drawbacks of the plan. The near apocalyptic weather that is dominant in the middle of the ocean would make building the complicated farm difficult as well as its maintenance and upkeep.

The system needed to store all that electricity and transport it through the ocean, and then throughout the world, would have to be advanced and state of the art.

Also, harvesting so much wind at once may have detrimental and disruptive impacts on the weather and ecology around the world. The massive amount of wind being collected would reduce the wind able to be harnessed in North America and Europe, it might even reduce the temperature in the Arctic by 20 degrees. This could have unpredictable damages to the environment and be even more harmful than resuming the use of fossil fuels.

        There are no immediate plans to build such a farm, but if we decide to, much more research would be required to safely and efficiently construct a wind farm that massive and in such a precarious location.